LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Top-rated television show "American Idol" debuted to solid viewership Tuesday night, luring nearly 30 million viewers overall and rising slightly among younger audiences, according to early ratings on Wednesday.
The singing contest, which has made headlines in recent days with the planned departure of judge Simon Cowell, scored an 11.8 rating among adults 18 to 49 years old, a group coveted by advertisers, according to viewership figures released by the Fox television network.
That was up 1 percent from last year's debut even as "Idol" has faced slipping viewership in recent years. Among adults 18 to 34 years old, the show increased its audience by 9 percent with a 10.7 rating compared with 9.8 on its debut in 2009.
Simon Fuller, the program's executive producer, called it a "perfect start" to the show's ninth season on Fox.
"With Ellen DeGeneres coming on board and Simon Cowell departing, we are all set to have another memorable chapter in 'Idol's' history," Fuller said.
"Idol" is starting a new season even as it is shedding its old style. Popular judge Paula Abdul did not return for the ninth season and in her place will be talk show host DeGeneres, who joins the show later this season.
Cowell, whose harsh judging of contestants in past seasons has made him both loathed and loved by audiences, announced earlier this week that he will leave the program when this current season ends in May.
Tuesday's premiere showed auditions held in Boston, and to help boost the star appeal of "Idol" for its debut, Fox brought on board guest judge Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham.
Editing by Mike Collett-White